Tag Archives: Worship

“When the Bible runs dry, then I shall” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“He spoke from the pulpit as one earnestly occupied with the souls before him. He made them feel sympathy with what he spoke, for his own eye and heart were on them.

And while his style was singularly clear, this clearness itself was so much the consequence of his being able thoroughly to analyse and explain his subject, that all his hearers alike reaped the benefit.

He went about his public work with awful reverence. So evident was this, that I remember a countryman in my parish observed to me: ‘Before he opened his lips, as he came along the passage, there was something about him that sorely affected me.’

In the vestry there was never any idle conversation; all was preparation of heart in approaching God; and a short prayer preceded his entering the pulpit. Surely in going forth to speak for God, a man may well be overawed.

Surely in putting forth his hand to sow the seed of the kingdom, a man may even tremble! And surely we should aim at nothing less than to pour forth the truth upon our people through the channel of our own living and deeply affected souls.

After announcing the subject of his discourse, he used generally to show the position it occupied in the context, and then proceed to bring out the doctrines of the text, in the manner of our old divines. This done, he divided his subject; and herein he was eminently skilful.

‘The heads of his sermons,’ said a friend, ‘were not the mile-stones that tell you how near you are to your journey’s end, but they were nails which fixed and fastened all he said. Divisions are often dry; but not so his divisions,—they were so textual and so feeling, and they brought out the spirit of a passage so surprisingly.’

It was his wish to arrive nearer at the primitive mode of expounding Scripture in his sermons.

Hence when one asked him, If he was never afraid of running short of sermons some day? he replied, ‘No; I am just an interpreter of Scripture in my sermons; and when the Bible runs dry, then I shall.’

And in the same spirit he carefully avoided the too common mode of accommodating texts,—fastening a doctrine on the words, not drawing it from the obvious connection of the passage.

He endeavoured at all times to preach the mind of the Spirit in a passage; for he feared that to do otherwise would be to grieve the Spirit who had written it.

Interpretation was thus a solemn matter to him. And yet, adhering scrupulously to this sure principle, he felt himself in no way restrained from using, for every day’s necessities, all parts of the Old Testament as much as the New.

His manner was first to ascertain the primary sense and application, and so proceed to handle it for present use. He regarded the prophecies as history yet to be, and drew lessons from them accordingly as he would have done from the past.

Every spiritual gift being in the hands of Jesus, if he found Moses or Paul in the possession of precious things, he forthwith was led to follow them into the presence of that same Lord who gave them all their grace.

There is a wide difference between preaching doctrine and preaching Christ. Mr M‘Cheyne preached all the doctrines of Scripture as understood by our Confession of Faith, dwelling upon ruin by the Fall, and recovery by the Mediator.

‘The things of the human heart, and the things of the Divine Mind,’ were in substance his constant theme. From personal experience of deep temptation, he could lay open the secrets of the heart, so that he once said, ‘He supposed the reason why some of the worst sinners in Dundee had come to hear him was, because his heart exhibited so much likeness to theirs.’

Still it was not doctrine alone that he preached; it was Christ, from whom all doctrine shoots forth as rays from a centre.”

–Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 71-73.

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“To know God is to live” by Herman Bavinck

“Mystery is the lifeblood of theological reflection. From the start of its labors, dogmatic theology is shrouded in mystery. It stands before God the incomprehensible One.

This knowledge leads to adoration and worship: to know God is to live.

Knowing God is possible for us because God is personal, exalted above the earth and yet in fellowship with human beings on earth. Good theology puts this knowledge of God on public display.

It resists allowing theology to degenerate into rhetoric, a theology merely of words. It seeks the heart of the matter, knowing God in order to worship Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.

Such theology is never a dry and academic exercise. It is eminently practical and superlatively fruitful for life.

The knowledge of God in Christ, after all, is life itself (Psalm 89:16; Isaiah 11:9; Jeremiah 31:34; John 17:3).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Abridged in One Volume, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011), 147-148.

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“The church’s marriage with the Lamb” by Jonathan Edwards

“Above all, the time of Christ’s last coming is the time of the consummation of the church’s marriage with the Lamb, and the time of the complete and most perfect joy of the wedding.

In that resurrection morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in our heavens, shining in all His brightness and glory, He will come forth as a bridegroom.

He shall come in the glory of His Father, with all His holy angels. And at that glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, shall the whole elect church, complete as to every individual member and each member with the whole man, both body and soul, and both in perfect glory, ascend up to meet the Lord in the air, to be thenceforth forever with the Lord.

That will be a joyful meeting of this glorious bridegroom and bride indeed. Then the bridegroom will appear in all His glory without any veil.

And then the saints shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and at the right hand of their Redeemer and then the church will appear as the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

’Tis the state of the church after the resurrection, that is spoken of, Rev. 21:2, ‘And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband.’ And v. 9, ‘Come hither; I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’

Then will come the time, when Christ will sweetly invite His spouse to enter in with Him into the palace of His glory, which He had been preparing for her from the foundation of the world, and shall as it were take her by the hand, and lead her in with Him.

And this glorious bridegroom and bride shall with all their shining ornaments, ascend up together into the heaven of heaven, the whole multitude of glorious angels waiting upon them.

And this Son and daughter of God shall, in their united glory and joy, present themselves together before the Father.

When Christ shall say, ‘Here am I, and the children which Thou has given Me,’ and they both shall in that relation and union, together receive the Father’s blessing, and shall thenceforward rejoice together, in consummate, uninterrupted, immutable, and everlasting glory, in the love and embraces of each other, and joint enjoyment of the love of the Father.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1743–1758 (ed. Wilson H. Kimnach and Harry S. Stout; vol. 25; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2006), 25: 183–184.

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“Gloria Patri” by Fred Sanders

“Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost! As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

The glory of God is from everlasting to everlasting, but while the praise of the Trinity will have no end, it had a beginning.

There was never a time when God was not glorious as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. But there was a time when that singular glory had not yet disclosed itself so as to invite creatures to its praise.

To join in the ancient Christian prayer called the Gloria Patri, directing praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to come into alignment here in the world ‘as it is now’ with triune glory ‘as it was in the beginning.’

All theology ought to be doxology, but Trinitarian theology in particular is essentially a matter of praising God. This doxological response is the praise of glory (ἔπαινον δόξης, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) that always was, and whose epiphany in time entails its antecedent depth in eternity.

Those whom God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ are summoned to join that praise: ‘Blessed be God the Father, who has blessed us in the Beloved and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise’ (Eph 1:3-14, condensed).”

–Fred Sanders, The Triune God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), 25.

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“Athanasius announced the singing of Psalm 136” by James Montgomery Boice

“The word that is used for ‘love’ in this refrain is the powerful Hebrew term hesed, which means ‘covenant love’ or the favor God shows to those with whom He has entered into a covenant relationship. Sometimes it is translated ‘steadfast (or ‘enduring’) love.’ It is enduring because God is a God of His word. He is forever good, and He does not break His covenant.

One night in February 358 A.D. the church father Athanasius held an all-night service at his church in Alexandria, Egypt. He had been leading the fight for the eternal sonship and deity of Jesus Christ, knowing that the survival of Christianity depended on it. He had many enemies—for political even more than theological reasons—and they moved the power of the Roman government against him. That night the church was surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords. People were frightened.

With calm presence of mind Athanasius announced the singing of Psalm 136. The vast congregation responded, thundering forth twenty-six times, ‘His love endures forever.’ When the soldiers burst through the doors they were staggered by the singing. Athanasius kept his place until the congregation was dispersed. Then he too disappeared in the darkness and found refuge with his friends.

Many citizens of Alexandria were killed that night, but the people of Athanasius’s congregation never forgot that although man is evil, God is good. He is superlatively good, and ‘His love endures forever.'”

–James Montgomery Boice, Psalms: An Expositional Commentary, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 3: 1185. Boice is commenting on Psalm 136.

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“He is the sun of their souls” by John Newton

“The Lord, by His Spirit, manifests and confirms His love to His people. For this purpose He meets them at His throne of grace, and in His ordinances.

There He makes Himself known unto them, as He does not unto the world. There He causes His goodness to pass before them, and opens, applies, and seals to them, His exceeding great and precious promises, and He gives them the Spirit of adoption, whereby, unworthy as they are, they are enabled to cry ‘Abba, Father.’

He causes them to understand that great love wherewith He has loved them, in redeeming them by price and by power, washing them from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, recovering them from the dominion of Satan, and preparing for them an everlasting kingdom, where they shall see His face, and rejoice in His glory.

The knowledge of this, His love to them, produces a return of love from them to Him. They adore Him, and admire Him. They make an unreserved surrender of their hearts to Him. They view Him and delight in Him, as their God, their Saviour, and their portion.

They account His favour better than life. He is the sun of their souls: if He is pleased to shine upon them, all is well, and they are not greatly careful about other things.

But if He hides His face, the smiles of the whole creation can afford them no solid comfort.

They esteem one day or hour spent in the delightful contemplation of His glorious excellencies, and in the expression of their desires towards Him, better than a thousand. And when their love is most fervent, they are ashamed that it is so faint, and chide and bemoan themselves that they can love Him no more.

This often makes them long to depart, willing to leave their dearest earthly comforts, that they may see Him as He is, without a veil or cloud.

For they know that then, and not till then, they shall love Him as they ought.”

–John Newton, The Works of the John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (vol. 1; London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 309–310.

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“Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations” by D.A. Carson

“Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations. Our own comfort, our bruised feelings, our reputations, our misunderstood motives—all of these are insignificant in comparison with the advance and splendor of the gospel. As Christians, we are called upon to put the advance of the gospel at the very center of our aspirations.

What are your aspirations? To make money? To get married? To travel? To see your grandchildren grow up? To find a new job? To retire early? None of these is inadmissible; none is to be despised. The question is whether these aspirations become so devouring that the Christian’s central aspiration is squeezed to the periphery or choked out of existence entirely.

I recall a Christian some years ago who always gave the same response when he was asked the numbing vocational question ‘What do you do?’ Invariably he would reply, ‘I’m a Christian.’

‘Yes, but I didn’t ask your religion; I asked what you do.’

‘I’m a Christian.’

‘Do you mean that you are in vocational ministry?’

‘No, I’m not in vocational ministry. But I’m a Christian, full time.’

‘But what do you do vocationally?’

‘Oh, vocationally. Well, I’m a Christian full time, but I pack pork to pay expenses.’

At one level, of course, his standard response was slightly perverse. Moreover, in God’s universe all morally good and useful work is honorable and not to be dismissed as of marginal importance.

Whether it’s packing pork or writing computer programs or baking a pie or changing a diaper, we are to offer our work up to God. We are His, and all we say and do, including our work, must be offered up for His glory and His people’s good.

But having insisted on that point, there are some elements of what we do that are more directly tied to the gospel than are others. Some things we do, and only some things, have direct eternal significance. As the apostle preserves gospel priorities in his prayers, so he preserves them in his aspirations. We must do the same… We are not more than a generation away from denying the gospel.

It may be that God has called you to be a homemaker or an engineer or a chemist or a ditch digger. It may be that you will take some significant role in, say, the rising field of bioethics.

But although the gospel directly affects how you will discharge your duties in each case, none of these should displace the gospel that is central to every thoughtful Christian. You will put the gospel first in your aspirations.

Then you will be able to endure affliction and persecution and even misunderstanding and misrepresentation from other Christians. You will say with Paul, ‘I want you to know… that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel’ (1:12).”

–D.A. Carson, Basics For Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 25-28.

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